Enterprises planning future with 5G and Wi-Fi 6

Deloitte study shows advanced wireless technologies increasingly seen as a ‘force multiplier’ for emerging technologies including AI, IoT, cloud and edge computing

In a stark revelation of the potential future prospects for the latest communications technologies such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6, a study from Deloitte has revealed that as many as 86% of networking executives believe that advanced wireless will transform their organisation within three years, and 79% believe the same about their industry.

Although the survey was conducted before the Covid-19 outbreak, Deloitte said that the pandemic further highlights the need for ubiquitous, secure and high-quality connectivity to maintain business operations with reduced on-site personnel and, in some cases, a fully virtual workforce, and it may even accelerate the demand for a more robust and powerful network infrastructure.

In its bid to ascertain how enterprises are adopting the advanced wireless technologies such as 5G including motivations, challenges and preferences, Deloitte surveyed 415 US networking executives early in the first quarter of 2020. The executives were responsible for connectivity at organisations that are in the process of adopting 5G and/or Wi-Fi 6 or planning to adopt either technology within the next three years.

In addition to noting that advanced wireless would transform their organisation and their industry within the next three years in some way, the study found that advanced wireless technologies were gaining in strategic importance as respondents expect their use of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 to more than double over the next three years and their use of 4G/Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and Wi-Fi (5 and below) to diminish, but not disappear.

Adopting advanced wireless networking was regarded by the survey as a strategic necessity, with 76% of executives saying they believe 5G will be a critical networking technology for their company in three years, and 70% feeling the same way about Wi-Fi 6. Just over three-fifths planned to adopt both technologies within the next year, and 93% planned to co-adopt them within the next three years.

Survey respondents believed performance improvements make advanced wireless technologies attractive for heavy-bandwidth, time-sensitive needs.

The top three benefits that companies were aiming to achieve with the advanced wireless networking technologies were improving efficiency, improving security and taking advantage of new technologies such as edge computing, big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). Respondents ranked data speed (63%), reliability and resilience (62%) and security of networks and data (61%) as the most important factors of success with advanced wireless.

This strategic importance looks likely to be translated into a slew of investment with organisations expect to spend on average US$115.7mn on wireless technologies over the next three years, and 87% believed that advanced wireless technologies could create a significant competitive advantage for their company.

The process to adopt the new technologies was well under way and 57% of respondents were currently in the process of adopting 5G and/or Wi-Fi, including planning and testing.

Yet despite these benefits, not all respondents believed their current networks are equipped for innovation. Even though more than four-fifths of networking executives surveyed were “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with the performance characteristics of their current wireless networks, 57% regarded their company’s current networking infrastructure as preventing them from addressing the innovative use cases they would like to target.

IT roles – from CIOs and CTOs to managers – were seen as driving next-generation wireless networking adoption, but business and operational leaders also played a prominent role.

In addition, use case priorities for advanced networking technologies tend to differ by industry and job title. IT executives appear strongly focused on easing the work lives of employees: workplace communications, IT administration and advanced collaboration tools were noted as the top three use cases for employee connectivity. In contrast, for line-of-business executives, the top two use cases for employee connectivity are IT administration and automation, suggesting a strong desire for efficiency.

Looking at what key trends could be divined and what actions were needed to best deploy the advanced technologies, Dan Littmann, principal of technology, media and telecommunications at Deloitte Consulting, noted that the survey confirmed that networking executives were “all in” when it comes to adopting the latest wireless technologies.

“Respondents resoundingly view advanced wireless technologies as a key enabler of AI, cloud and analytics-based innovations,” he said. “The Covid-19 pandemic itself may even accelerate demand for automation that enables social distancing in the workplace and relies on a more robust and powerful network infrastructure.”

Jack Fritz, principal of technology, media and telecommunications at Deloitte, added: “Innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, edge computing and cloud are no longer nice-to-haves, but must-haves, for enterprises to truly compete in today’s fast-paced and uncertain world.

“As the adoption of advanced wireless technologies progresses from pilots to full-scale adoption, networking executives that understand how to use them as a way to unlock the full potential of these emerging technologies will ultimately prevail.”

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